Last week, Camera Obscura opened for She & Him at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap, in Vienna, Virginia. It was an outdoor show on a particularly hot and humid Thursday night. Singer Tracyanne Campbell remarked to the crowd that the band members, being from Scotland, had never experienced heat like this. Though the set was short (around ten songs), it was a good showcase for new material from last month’s Desire Lines. Songs like “This is Love” and “Fifth in Line to the Throne” joined traditional live favorites “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” and “French Navy”. As always, the band closed its set with “Razzle Dazzle Rose”, which never fails to thrill regardless of how many times one sees it played live.
The next evening, Belle and Sebastian headlined a concert at another outdoor venue (Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland). The weather was cooler, the set was longer, and there was considerably more stage banter and audience participation. Unlike Camera Obscura, who was promoting a new album, Belle and Sebastian played a career retrospective set. Frontman Stuart Murdoch said the band had been “neglecting songwriting” and would therefore “take a scamper through the old back catalogue”. In keeping with the retrospective theme, the stage backdrop featured the artwork from the forthcoming Rough Trade compilation The Third Eye Centre.
Murdoch treated the audience to a few of his usual concert habits. He said he would try to mind his language on behalf of the kids in attendance. He borrowed mascara for “Lord Anthony”. He went into the crowd during “Your Cover’s Blown” and danced through “I Didn’t See it Coming”. Afterwards, he said to the audience, “You’ve watched us dance about like a lot of fannies onstage” and reasoned that it was time for the crowd to do the same. Dozens of dancers joined the band onstage for “The Boy with the Arab Strap” and “Legal Man”.
The highlight of the show came during the middle of the set with “The Model” from Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Commenting about that album, Murdoch said his long album titles used to irritate the record company, so he responded by making them longer. To see Belle and Sebastian live is to see a band fully in tune with its fans and the songs/stories they cherish. This show was no exception. Throughout, the band and guest musicians provided a wonderful evening of music, and the lack of new songs didn’t seem to be an issue for the crowd, who appeared to be thoroughly entertained by an evening of familiarity.
Belle and Sebastian: